Everything came at Danny Mwanga so fast, so furious, that the technical staff constantly had to remind him to slow down.
It was good advice.
As a rookie, especially as the No. 1 overall choice from Oregon State, lofty expectations were placed on Mwanga.
He never minded any of the pressure. What he tried to do was take in all the information, both spoken advice and experiential wisdom, on a daily basis.
In finishing his first season with seven goals – first in MLS among rookies – and four assists, Mwanga posted the highest combined mark among rookies. He was also a finalist for Rookie of the Year and a case could have been made for him over award winner Andy Najar.
“I learned a lot every single day and I listened to Peter Nowak, John Hackworth and the whole staff,” Mwanga said. “They work with you because they want you to get better and improve. I felt like I improved as the season went on. You learn real fast that the MLS season is a whole lot more demanding than the college season. You have to play through injuries and that isn’t always easy.
“I was never satisfied with what I was doing. I was able to score some goals, but it was playing off the ball and learning how to do that which will make me an even better player.”
Mwanga will have plenty of help up front with bonafide goal scorers such as Sebastien Le Toux and Carlos Ruiz among others.
Coming into his second season in MLS, Mwanga would like to eclipse last season’s seven goals. But it’s not mandatory.
“I want to win more games and get to the playoffs,” Mwanga said. “Seba and Carlos are accomplished players and they’re going to score goals. I think we have the ability to be really dangerous as a team which is exciting to me. If I have the opportunity to score more goals, I would like to do it. I want to win games. I want to be competing in the playoffs.”
Le Toux thoroughly enjoyed playing alongside Mwanga last season, and he believes this season holds even more promise.
“Danny has so much talent, and he has that desire to improve,” Le Toux said. “There is a strong learning curve when you get to MLS. I felt like Danny picked things up so quickly. He really came along quickly. I think he’s going to have a terrific season for us. Having him opposite me will open some things up. And the club has made other additions where I think plenty of goal-scoring opportunities will be there this season.”
The Union will be home a lot more often in the early stages of the season. That’s quite different than last season when the club was forced to play eight of the first 10 games away from home while the finishing touches were being put on PPL Park.
Getting that road experience as a rookie, however, paid huge dividends for Mwanga.
“You see really fast what it takes to win on the road,” Mwanga said. “You rely on your teammates. And you see how hard it is to win on the road. You have to focus more. I feel like the early part of last season helped me. I’m looking forward to being at home more. But I also feel more confident going out on the road with my teammates to win matches.”
Mwanga expects to win this season. More importantly, he feels that having that rookie season behind him is huge.
Things won’t be coming quite as fast this time around.
“There’s nothing like game experience,” Mwanga said. “I felt like a different player when the season was over. I was always confident. I’m really prepared for this season and I’m anxious to start it on Saturday against Houston.”